FAQs

What is an apprenticeship?


An apprenticeship is a genuine job with an accompanying skills development programme. Through their apprenticeship, apprentices gain the technical knowledge, practical experience and wider skills they need for their immediate job and future career. The apprentice gains this through a wide mix of learning in the workplace, formal off-the-job training and the opportunity to practise new skills in a real work environment.

By ‘genuine’ we mean that:

- the apprentice must have a contract of employment which is long enough for them to complete the apprenticeship successfully or be employed by an apprenticeship training agency (ATA)

- the cost of the apprentice’s wages must be met by you as their employer

- the apprentice must have a job role (or roles) within the organisation that provides the opportunity for them to gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to achieve their apprenticeship

- the apprentice must have appropriate support from within the organisation to carry out their job role

Reference: Apprenticeship funding: rules and guidance for employers, May 2017 to March 2018, Version 2, p6, Skills Funding Agency.




What are the building blocks of a HCS apprenticeships?


HCS Apprenticeship = Genuine Job + Off-the-Job Training + Qualification + End Point Assessment + Functional Skills (if required)




Why do I employ apprentices in my department?


Apprentices are highly recommended for your department if you answer 'yes' to any of the questions listed below: - Do you want to retain the knowledge of your experienced staff members with in your department once they retire? - Do you want to give an opportunity to bright young school leavers to develop their career within the prestigious NHS who otherwise cannot afford going to a university? - Does your department face staff retention issues due to various resons including skills gap, salary differences, or ageing workforce? - Do you want to further train your current staff members but do not find funding for CPD or further education? - Does your department want its workforce planning aligned to the organisational strategy by helping achieve the Public Sector Target of 2.3% workforce as apprentices?




What is Healthcare Science?


Healthcare science (HCS) is one of the fastest-moving areas of the NHS and it's importance is continuing to grow. Healthcare science departments make a real difference to patients every day. They are involved in 80% of all clinical decisions in the NHS and developing some of the most amazing clinical and technological advancements.

There are more than 50 HCS divisions within 4 themes; Life sciences, Physiological sciences, Bioinformatics and Physical sciences.

To see a list of all departments under each theme of the HCS check out 'Themes & Divisions' page by clicking here.




What can a HCS apprentice do for my department?


Healthcare Science Assistants (Level 2 apprentice) perform a range of low risk, routine technical and scientific procedures usually within one broad area of HCS, following specific protocols and in accordance with health, safety, governance and ethical requirements. HCSAs work using standard operating procedures, initially under direct supervision but increasingly with experience, under indirect supervision. They work towards achieving a HCS Assistant L2 apprentice certificate. Healthcare Science Associates (Level 4 apprentice) perform a wide range of routine technical and scientific procedures, with minimal supervision, within one of the Divisions in HCS following specific protocols and in accordance with health, safety, governance and ethical requirements. They usually support the work of HCS Practitioners and Clinical Scientists. They work towards achieving a HCS Associate L4 apprentice certificate. Healthcare Science Practitioner (Level 6 apprentice) work independently and as part of a team to perform complex clinical technical procedures within the scope of practice of their HCS specialism to a high degree of safety, accuracy and precision, recording and interpreting the clinical technical output as required. They work towards achieving an accredited/approved BSc (Honours) degree in healthcare science before taking the end-point assessment to attain the level 6 apprenticeship certificate.




What are career progression pathways for HCS apprentices?


Click here to navigate the HCS Career Progression Pathways page.




Is there any current or expected HCS skills gap?


A significant (17%) drop in the UK undergraduates has been noticed due to the increase in the university tuition fees (Howse, 2014). An Example of Clinical Engineeirng Department:

CE departments (a division of HCS) are the guardians of medical devices. Therefore, it is their duty to play the critical role in the provision of quality healthcare by functioning to its best. There are a number of issues hindering the efficiency of CE departments including an ageing workforce and a high staff turnover (Ayers, 2016). Taylor (2010) firmly believes that a mismatch in capacity and demand is a major cause behind the backlog and long waiting lists in the NHS

In the year 2013, there were 13,000 reported incidents of faulty medical devices which resulted into 300 deaths and 5,000 serious injuries (IMechE, 2014). The report presented by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers states that the NHS engineers receive low priority which leads to problems caused by faulty equipment and cancelled operations. Highly skilled technicians in clinical engineering, critical care, and renal dialysis are approaching retirement. Therefore, there is high need to fill this skills gap (Chi+med, 2015). References:
  • Ayers, M. (2016) Mind the Gap: a new approach to meeting the skills shortage in NHS medical engineering and Physics. SCOPE, 25 (1): 34

  • Chi+med, (2015) Beyond “Easy to use”: The Importance of Human Factors in Clinical Engineering [online]. Available from: http://www.chi-ed.ac.uk/publicdocs/WP329.pdf [Accessed 19 April 2016]

  • Howse, P. (2014) Higher fees led to 17% drop in UK undergraduates. BBC News [online]. available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25761133 [Accessed 12 Dec 2017]

  • Lack of NHS engineers is putting lives at risk (2014). [online]. IMechE. Available from: http://www.imeche.org/news/institution/New_report_lack_of_NHS_engineers_is_putting_lives_at_risk [Accessed 22 April 2016]

  • Taylor, J. (2010) The handbook of quality and service improvement tools. Coventry: NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement




Do HCS apprentices help improve retention?


A HCS career progression pathway plan shows approximately a retition of 10 years. Click here to see the chart.




What is in there for apprentices?


Research has shown that earnings of an apprentice increases in line with the level of qualifications they have.

Apprentices can study at different levels. In England, these can be equivalent to GCSEs, A levels, a Foundation Degree, Degree or even a Masters Degree.

Compared to someone without any qualifications they could earn:

  • 20% more if they had a work-based qualification equivalent to GCSEs or Standard Grades
  • 35% more if they had a work-based qualification equivalent to A levels or Highers
  • 65% more if they had the equivalent to a Higher Education Degree

(Source: ONS, 2011)




Who fits the bill?


We look for HCS apprentices who…

- are keenly interested in the welfare of others and have a caring attitude to other people - are good listeners, honest, friendly and have a professional attitude to work - are excited about learning to improve and innovate for patient care and safety - are team players, accept personal responsibility and strive to deliver excellent results - treat everyone with respect and dignity - are problem solvers and are thrilled to use technical skills for healthcare - have minimum 5 GCSEs at grade C or above (or equivalent qualification) which must include English, Maths and Science/ICT. A-levels would be desirable.




What is meant by off-the-job training?


Off-the-job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of the apprenticeship. This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties. The off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard and could include the following: - The teaching of theory (for example: lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning or manufacturer training) - Practical training: shadowing;mentoring; industry visits and attendance at competitions. - Learning support and time spent writing assessments/assignments. It does not include: - English and maths (up to level 2) which is funded separately - Progress reviews or on-programme assessment needed for an apprenticeship framework or standard Reference: Apprenticeship funding: rules and guidance for employers, May 2017 to March 2018, Version 2, p7, Skills Funding Agency.




If someone has a degree in Biology with some experience in Audiology, can that employee be admitted to a level 6 HCS apprenticeship in Audiology specialism?


The final decision is made by the training provider (HEI in this case) where they compare the previously acquired degree and experience with the new BSc in Audiology (L6 HCS Apprenticeship) and the job description. The funding rules by the ESFA states as below (para E64, funding rules May17 - July18): "We will fund an apprentice to undertake an apprenticeship at the same or lower level than a qualification they already hold, if the apprenticeship will allow the individual to acquire substantive new skills and you can evidence that the content of the training is materially different from any prior qualification or a previous apprenticeship."




What is the recommended salary structure for current/existing staff on apprenticeship programmes?


Where existing employees are required to undertake apprenticeships as part of their ongoing learning and development, they would normally remain on their current pay, terms and conditions for the duration of the programme. Some employees may choose voluntarily to apply for an apprenticeship programme within the same organisation in order to support a career change. The pay arrangements for such situations is a matter for local agreement, subject to equality requirements and expressed transparently as part of agreed apprenticeship policies. Where an existing employee is released to undertake an apprenticeship in a different occupation/area, the employee should remain in that area where a job opportunity continues to exist. For further details check out the complete document on NHS Staff Council Guidance here Reference: https://haso.skillsforhealth.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Apprenticeships-in-the-NHS-NHS-Staff-Council-guidance.pdf




Fixed-term or permanent contract for new HCS apprenticeship starters?


The employer will have to decide whether to offer a fixed-term or permanent contract to an apprentice. Where an apprentice is filling a permanent vacancy then a permanent contract would be considered appropriate. Any performance or competence issues can be dealt with under normal procedures. Where fixed-term contracts are used, these should be flexible enough to allow for extensions if necessary, e.g. to cover maternity absence. Reference: full document available here https://haso.skillsforhealth.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Apprenticeships-in-the-NHS-NHS-Staff-Council-guidance.pdf




What are the options for setting pay structure for new apprentice recruits?


The NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook Annex 21 (previously Annex U) sets out the options for the pay and banding of trainees. It was designed for trainee posts (usually clinical) and applies a percentage of the band maximum depending on the length of training. In the absence of any other nationally agreed framework many employers have started to use it. For trainees covered where periods of training last for between one and four years, pay will be adjusted as follows: (i) up to 12 months prior to completion of training: 75 per cent of the pay band maximum of
the fully qualified rate;
(ii) more than one but less than two years prior to completion of training: 70 per cent of the
pay band maximum of the qualified rate;
(iii) more than two but less than three years prior to completion of training: 65 per cent of the
pay band maximum for the qualified rate;
(iv) more than three years from completion of training: 60 per cent of the pay band maximum
for the qualified rate. Starting pay for any trainee must be no less than the rate of the main (adult) rate of the
National Minimum Wage. References: A UNISON report on apprenticeships in the NHS, available here Annex 21: Arrangements for pay and banding of trainees, available here




Does Phlebotomy come under the HCS?


In the HCS Themes and Divisions chart Phlebotomy comes under the Life Sciences division (see here). Moreover, looking at the units of the Level 2 HCS, there are a few available modules specific to Phlebotomy as mentioned below and other job/department specific modules could be mixed & matched to design a programme (see complete L2 diploma doc here).
62 Obtain and Test Specimens from Individuals
63 Obtain Venous Blood Samples
10 Introduction to Transfusion and Transplantation
68 Assisting with the Preparation of Specimens/Samples for Laboratory Investigations
Historically this staff group has been trained using various frameworks including HC Support worker, Clinical Healthcare Support or even Customer Care. If a training provider has delivered the above mentioned frameworks in the past and now registered and delivering some sort of HCS specialism, they should be able to deliver for Phlebotomy HCS Apprenticeship too.




Do apprentices get a Council Tax discount?


In order to be eligible for a Council Tax discount, an 18+ apprentice need to show that they don’t qualify as an adult for Council Tax by showing a declaration from their employer stating that: they won’t be paid more than £195 a week the training leads to a qualification accredited by a body recognised by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) or the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SVEC) Most of the apprentices in the NHS are either on either Band 2 or above (some Trusts are using Annex 21). In such cases, apprentices do not qualify for the above mentioned declaration letter from their employers. To find out how much discount you may get and other criteria to show that one does not qualify as an adult for Council Tax, visit the government website: https://www.gov.uk/council-tax/who-has-to-pay





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